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118 cops left Seattle Police Department amid rioting, budget cuts in 2020

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best holds a news conference in front of the East Precinct on Monday, June 29, 2020 after an early-morning shooting left one person dead and another injured in front of the station. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times/TNS)
October 25, 2020

At least 118 officers have left the Seattle Police Department this year, a record number that is having a noticeable impact on the riot-torn city.

According to data recently released by the city, almost 40 officers left the department in September alone, KCPQ in Seattle reported. Last month’s jump in officer departures is “double the number of losses any month on record” in the northwest city.

While the separations included moves to other agencies and retirements, the majority were officers who chose to resign.

According to KCPQ, city officials say the loss of officers is creating a public safety issue, particularly with 911 emergency response times. The longest response time for 911 calls should be 7 minutes, but the North Precinct in September saw that number jump to 9 minutes.

“Your 911 call for help will go unanswered for a significant amount of time,” Seattle Police Officer Guild President Mike Solan told the Jason Rantz Show.

The separations in September occurred following the Seattle City Council’s decision to almost unanimously pass legislation that cut $4 million from the SPD’s budget, and reduced the force by up to 100 officers.

The only dissenting vote was Kshama Sawant, who asserted that the cut wasn’t enough. She said the decision failed working people, particularly those in black and brown communities.

“This budget fails to address the systemic racism of policing…other Councilmembers publicly declared they would support defunding SPD by 50 percent, as our Peoples Budget and the Justice for George Floyd movement have demanded,” Sawant said.

Among the officers who left the department this year was Chief Carmen Best, who said the cuts put her in a position that was “destined to fail.”

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan expressed concern for the decrease in police department staffing, saying it could take the city back decades. In 1990, Seattle had 1,271 officers; since that year, the population in Seattle has increased by 44 percent.  The current number of officers on the street in Seattle is 1,203.

“It is not a sustainable trend line,” Durkan said. “If you look at that trendline we could be back to levels decades ago in a city that has grown so much and that leads not just to a lack of resources when people need them. It actually makes policing harder.”

The staffing challenges come in the wake of a summer filled with protests and riots sparked by the death of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department over Memorial Day weekend. The challenges include calls from Black Lives Matter to defund police departments nationwide.